To develop an automated, reproducible method for delineating hospital service areas (HSAs).
Discharge data from all Swiss acute care hospitals for the years 2013 to 2016.
We derived HSAs and hospital referral regions for Switzerland using a newly developed flow‐based, automated, objective, and reproducible method using all discharge data. We compared our method to the classical, partially subjective approach used to delineate the Swiss Health Care Atlas by delineating four sets of intervention‐specific HSAs.
Based on 4 105 885 discharges, the fully automated method delineated 63 HSAs. Comparison with existing HSAs reveals good overlap and comparable measures of health utilization between the methods and shows that in the Swiss setting, our method outperforms a cluster‐based approach to defining HSAs. While the classical method potentially takes an entire day to delineate the regions, our method took approximately 10 minutes.
Hospital service areas are used to analyze differences in use of health care that may indicate underuse and overuse. Our new, fully automated, objective, and reproducible method provides a useful tool for hospital services researchers that will enable them to delineate and update patient‐flow‐based HSAs.